Admiral Michelle Howard-002

Admiral Michelle Howard (Photo/You Tube)

The first African-American woman to lead the U.S. Navy’s forces in Europe and Africa officially took command in a ceremony on June 7.

Admiral Michelle Howard took command of Allied Joint Force Command Naples, a key NATO base, as well as U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa, consisting of the Navy’s assets in both Europe and Africa.

As the leader of the U.S. Navy’s presence in Europe and Africa, Howard’s duty will be to “ full spectrum maritime operations in concert with allied, coalition, joint, interagency and other partners to advance U.S. interests while enhancing maritime security and stability in Europe and Africa,” according to a NATO press release.

In addition, her role as commander of Allied Joint Force Command in Naples, Italy places her as one of two subordinates to NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander, and charges her with support of NATO operations in that region.

Howard was previously the Vice Chief of Naval Operations, the second highest ranking commission in the Navy. According to the Navy Times, she is the highest-ranking woman in the Navy, was the first woman to achieve the rank of four-star admiral, and was the first African-American woman to command a warship, the amphibious dock landing ship USS Rushmore. She also oversaw the counter-piracy operations which freed Capt. Richard Phillips from his captivity at the hands of Somali pirates.